William Dembski’s Challenge to Ken Starr

William Dembski Teaching Intelligent Design

IN the Baptist Press, a news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, we read Vindication for I.D. at Baylor? It’s an article by William Dembski, about whom we’ve written before.

See Intelligent Design’s Brief Shining Moment, about a think tank for Intelligent Design (ID) that existed for a short time at at Baylor University, and which was headed by Dembski. It was founded in 1999 and dissolved it in 2003, following objections by the Baylor faculty. For a look at what Dembski has been up to lately, see Dembski’s Creationist Revival Meeting.

Dembski’s article in the Baptist Press indicates that he hasn’t given up his dream of turning Baylor into a center of ID propaganda. Here are some excerpts with bold added by us:

Baylor University remains a proving ground for SBC controversies. Former Baylor president Robert Sloan’s “2012 Vision” continues, at least for now. This vision rests on two pillars, seeking to establish Baylor both as a top research university and as a school faithful to its Christian heritage.

Okay, what’s the problem? Let’s read on:

Secularized faculty, who are in the majority at Baylor and forced Sloan’s removal (he is now president of Houston Baptist University), see Baylor’s Christian heritage as a liability and would like to make the university’s slide into secularization complete.

Well, there goes Sloan’s “vision.” Dembski seems to have a bit of a grudge against Baylor’s “secularized faculty.” We continue:

Ken Starr, who becomes Baylor’s new president June 1, therefore faces a crucial test: Will he continue the full Baylor 2012 Vision, advancing not just Baylor’s academic distinction but also its Christian faithfulness, or will he give up on this second pillar of the vision?

We interpret that “crucial test” to be this: Will Ken Star be hospitable to ID? Surely, you know who Ken Starr is. Here’s more from Dembski:

Starr, no stranger to controversy, seems poised to do the right thing. But good intentions are one thing, decisions and actions are another. Baylor will be sure to test Starr’s mettle. Indeed, his first test is likely to come from an unexpected source, an online college resource known as College Crunch (http://www.collegecrunch.org).

Here’s a better link: College Crunch. Their website says: “College Crunch offers info and reviews of the best colleges, the most popular degrees, and the top career options available today.” That‘s going to be Starr’s first big test?

According to Dembski, the College Crunch website praises a Baylor professor named Robert J. Marks. Why does Dembski care? Why should Starr care? Stay with us and you’ll see:

Marks’ research lab was expelled from Baylor because Baylor officials saw it as supporting Intelligent Design, a scientific theory that purports to dismantle Darwinian evolution (Baylor biologists enthusiastically teach and promote Darwinian evolution — see their “Statement on Evolution” on the Baylor Biology Department’s website: http://www.baylor.edu/biology). The expulsion of Marks’ lab from Baylor was reported nationally from World Magazine to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It was also a centerpiece of Ben Stein’s film “Expelled,” documenting the persecution that proponents of Intelligent Design endure from the academy.

Aha! Baylor not only Expelled Dembski’s ID shop, but Marks’ too. Baylor seems to be a serious academic institution. Moving along:

It is naively optimistic to think that Marks’ appearance on the College Crunch list vindicates his research on Intelligent Design.

That’s a safe bet. Another excerpt:

Such optimism would be better justified if incoming Baylor president Ken Starr were to reinstate [Marks’] Evolutionary Informatics Lab’s website on the Baylor server and to recognize Intelligent Design as a legitimate area of research for Baylor faculty. That would constitute a true vindication of Marks’ work on Intelligent Design. It would also constitute a true validation of Starr’s commitment to the full Baylor 2012 Vision.

So Dembski lays down the challenge to Ken Starr: If Starr wants to win praise from Dembski, then he’ll have to recognize Marks and his ID work — and presumably, he’ll have to reinstate Dembski too.

Here’s how Dembski’s article ends:

Perhaps the College Crunch list is a foretaste of good things to come.

Yes, perhaps College Crunch and Ben Stein will restore ID to Baylor. Let’s see if Ken Starr will yield to all that pressure.

Addendum: For a peek into the strange world of Marks’ Evolutionary Informatics shop, see: Olivia Judson, Rap Music, & Dembski.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “William Dembski’s Challenge to Ken Starr

  1. Now I have, at last, seen a photograph of William Dembski. It is obvious that he is an extra-terrestrial. Certainly not a human being!

  2. And “Intelligent Design” is not religious.

  3. Carl Sachs

    I like this!

    Starr’s commitment to “the full Baylor 2012 vision” means taking seriously both pillars, and the second pillar being of course the commitment to remaining faithful to Baylor’s Christian heritage. And the best way to remain faithful to that Christian heritage, according to Dembski, is to promote Marks’ ID-friendly lab. (One should note that Marks is still a Baylor prof and still runs his lab — his “expulsion” consisted entirely of taking his website off of the university server.)

    So let’s make sure we have this straight: if Starr is committed to the full 2012 Vision for Baylor, then he will remain faithful to the school’s Christian heritage, which means supporting Marks’ ID-friendly lab, even though, as everyone knows, intelligent design is not religious.

    Makes sense to me!

  4. Carl Sachs says: “Makes sense to me!”

    You have groked the fullness of it.

  5. carlsonjok

    Institutional memories are long. Someone will undoubtedly tell Starr about all of Dembski’s juvenile antics (like publishing the names and phone numbers of the Board of Regents) and he will remain as persona non grata.

  6. He’s kind of like a fundamentalist Don Quixote. I can see Casey Luskin as Sancho Panza.

  7. James F says:

    He’s kind of like a fundamentalist Don Quixote. I can see Casey Luskin as Sancho Panza.

    They’re certainly willing to take on any adversary. First JPL, now Ken Starr. Everyone’s wondering where they’ll strike next.

  8. Seems rather self-serving on Dembski’s part. He makes it sound like he only wants a fair deal for Marks yet somehow fails to mention his own connection to Marks and the Evolutionary Informatics Lab.

    Dembski is a prominent “participant” on Marks’ Evolutionary Informatics Lab website ( http://evoinfo.org/ ) and has co-authored several papers with him.

    Wikipedia notes that, “In 2006, Dembski was briefly employed by Marks as a research assistant, despite the fact that he was a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. That stint as a Baylor employee came to an end when the university rejected the $30,000 grant from the Lifeworks Foundation that provided his salary. In a well sourced article at “The Panda’s Thumb,” a weblog opposing intelligent design, Andrea Bottaro links the Lifeworks Foundation to the Discovery Institute, a think tank advocating intelligent design.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_Informatics_Lab#Dembski.2C_Marks.2C_and_Baylor )

  9. RogerE says:

    Seems rather self-serving on Dembski’s part.

    Let’s be fair to Dembski. Perhaps he’s only interested in Professor Marks and the reputation of Baylor.

  10. “Let’s be fair to Dembski…”
    Yeah, and the Discovery Institute is only interested in “Academic Freedom”.

  11. retiredsciguy

    In RogerE’s post above, he quotes Wikipedia calling the Discovery Institute “a think tank advocating intelligent design.”

    A *think* tank? A PR outfit is closer to the truth.

  12. The DI could fund Marks’ Informatics Lab any time it wants. It doesn’t need Baylor to do that. They don’t because they aren’t interested in performing research, Dembski’s goal is merely to buy, borrow, or steal some academic credibility for ID.

  13. Wow- Ken Starr? At Baylor? Is it just me or does that seem weird?

    BTW- Kudos to Baylor for promoting academic excellence! I didn’t know the Bears had it in them (seeing as how a lot of other religious nuttery goes on there).

  14. No, Dembski is only interested in Dembski. Marks is his ticket back to the Baylor cafeteria he loves so much. Remember, after the “ID” center was closed at Baylor, Dembski drew full salary without any university responsibilities, teaching or otherwise, for five whole years; Baylor honored his contract. Dembski has sought vindication for his self-caused humiliation at Baylor ever since. Why does he keep trying to get back to Baylor? Why not some other Baptist college? After 10 years it still stings.

    Marks was doing OK with his stealth ID “research” grant until someone saw Dembski’s name on a door in the basement of the Engineering Dept, and, I think, Dembski bragged about it on his website. The whistle was blown and persona non gratis Dembski was bounced along with Marks’ grant money.

    Furthermore, Marks walks a thin line at Baylor, too. He’s been told by his department head to stick to physics and engineering rather than how Jesus holds up bridges and makes apples fall. Marks engaged in childish and puerile anti-evolution antics on the Web under the pseudonym Galapagos Finch until he stupidly left the directory to his website open and GF was identified as Marks. GF died that day and never chirped, farted or belched again.

    Somewhat embarrassing for a Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

    Dembski appears to have forgotten that Sloan fired him under pressure from the entire science faculty, not on Sloan’s own authority. Thus, it’s a pipe dream that Starr will resurrect ID at Baylor without fierce faculty opposition.

  15. Gabriel Hanna

    Of course intelligent design is not religious. And anyone who says something like, “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory” is engaging in intellectually dishonest caricature.

  16. Baylor on evolution:

    Department of Biology:

    Department of Chemistry : http://www.baylor.edu/chemistry/index.php?id=61281

  17. Doc Bill says: “No, Dembski is only interested in Dembski.”

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Dembski turns on Ken Starr. I think Starr is a bit of a hero to Anne Coulter, and Dembski tutored Coulter when she was writing her anti-evolution book.

  18. Starr has bigger fish to fry as the new prez of Baylor. Dembski may be Number 1 on Dembski’s List, but he’s not even a glimmer, not even a shadow of a thought on Starr’s.

    Remember, Baylor returned grant money at just the whiff of Dembski; just the notion that he was consulting on the project was enough to raise the alarm. The project was green to go UNTIL Dembski was discovered to be involved. Marks may be as big a creationist, but at Baylor Dembski is absolutely radioactive.

    No, it won’t be long before Dembski is railing against the “darwinists” and the “secularists” for putting pressure on Starr to be “ID unfriendly.”

    I’ll also float the thesis that Dembski knows full well that ID is a scam but that he could be a Big Man in ID circles and make a little money for even less work. Dembski backed out of Kitzmiller not because he thought the case was hopeless, but he knew he’d get torn up on the stand, as did Behe. Dembski sat in on Barbara Forrest’s deposition and she scared the hell out of him with her scholarship and knowledge about the creationist movement and ID. Unlike Behe, Dembski didn’t have a tenured position to return to. It took 3-4 years for Behe’s “reputation” to recover even in creationist circles, although to this day Behe has Kitzmiller thrown in his face at every opportunity.